"Tell me your story, grandpa. I'll show it to the world!" said the girl who owned the famed 'Humans of Bombay' page on Facebook.
"Well, what can I say! Life is like smoking cigarettes with each experience being a cigarette. You must suck out the essence of each experience till it lasts. Once the experience extinguishes, grab another one. Repeat till you become feeble to handle another one. Then, when the time is right, the 'smoking' will finally put you at peace."
All he received for his 'cigarettes' were 12,000 likes..
I am a loner;
Always in this corner;
The one next to me is my owner;
Smoking beedi over and over..
"When I returned from tirth yatra, my house was locked. I had no key. My family abandoned me." Shamsher Singh took a powerful whiff from a local tobacco stick, puffed out smoke with a deep breath. "Now I work as a hotel cleaner. The owner gives me food to eat and a bed to sleep. But most importantly he gives me my fix," he smiled at his cigarette. "So what's your story?" he asked Bhavani, a 64-year-old lady with a suitcase. She wiped her tears. Can I try this? She asked, looking at the pack of cigarettes.
I court death on a daily basis on the man-eater infected tea plantation I have been working in since my childhood, the poisonous pesticides that prevail in the air I breathe, the slippy hill tops where I go to work but nothing has kept me more alive than the smoke that completes me..
The news was too much to bear for him.
He came to the lunch hall housing the TV and took out a beedi from his 'plastic sheet' turban, to take one last puff. His hands fumbled as he lit it with a broken match. He inhaled deeply and it was heavenly.
But he could not smoke beedi anymore. It wouldn't do. He stared ahead letting out a cloudy puff and then... smiled.
The lottery ticket in his pocket weighed heavy and he was a crorepathi now. He would have to practice to hold a filter cigarette from now on..
He came to Mumbai with a lot of dreams in his eyes and he achieved them. He has a plush villa facing the serene sea with only waves making a noise. A villa with Italian flooring and glass windows and with a state-of-art home theatre. He just coughs as he inhales his last smoke and disperses the fog created by it, what is visible is a broken shanty with no windows to let light come in, cold cement floor to sleep on, noise of quarrels and machines and a defunct TV to fill the room..
After six hours of back-breaking work of slitting goats' throats, skinning, boning and cleaning dessicated meat in the slaughterhouse, the only pleasure he enjoyed was the one beedi he lit and smoked away to glory.
The smoke going inside his throat and lungs and the heady feeling after to make him forget the blood and gore around him.
It was his one and only enjoyment in his otherwise dreary life.
One smoke a day.....
The clouds of smoke fascinated him every time he burnt his heart. How can beautiful images come alive from ashes?
Time has come - he remembered doctorâ€™s words and his question - since when are you smoking?
A blurred image flashed; a half burnt beedi lying on floor, body of his father hanging from the fan, a note apologizing for leaving his family alone to fight the debts. Last beedi of his father was his first one. At 10, that was all he could preserve of his father.
Oh, one more thing; the debt that consumed his whole life. .
Living in a city far away from home and family was quite tough for him. There was a legal tangle which was to be taken care of, quite often than not. He remembered his good old days in the army, days of his youth where he roamed the streets in drunken stupor.
Now in this hovel he was left to rot, with a few stray cats and a whole lot of cigars for company. .
They say it's deadly, it causes health problems in long run. I laughed. I fail to understand this propaganda I see on television, whenever it functions. I can't challenge them though, after all they are intelligent, intellectual activists and what not. It has been my only companion throughout my life ever since I remember. Any alternative is unmatchable and beyond my reach. It gives me shelter, I can sleep underneath, I make it my vest, my headgear while working. I can move my little abode wherever I go in search of work. This bad is not that bad..
He barged inside the room murmuring something under his breath and went straight to switch on the TV. 'Lukha', as he was teased by other slum boys, was just a few feet away watching a news channel. I was petrified at such a close encounter with the fetid lunatic in a confined space.
I sensed euphoria on his old wrinkled face and he quickly switched off the TV looking across the room with a grin. I gingerly asked him about it.
He announced lighting his bidi, "They proclaimed me as a freedom fighter finally.".
Param lost his family to a road accident. They were coming from a fair, it was dark in the evening, unaware about misfortune, the family of four were heading towards their home in a cart. A speeding jeep came and hit the cart and threw the occupants here and there. The two kids died before reaching the hospital and Param's wife succumbed to injuries on arrival.
Now Param Singh lives in memories. After finishing his day long work, he occupies himself in liquor and smoke with a hope to reduce his pain; but alas!.
A choice between two addictions, both harmless in the short run, but harmful in the long run.
He could have chosen an intoxication of colours, scenes and drama. An overdose of saturation of the mind, a dose of lethargy.
Or a dull sluggishness of the brain, a persisting stink in the room. A view of the hazy landscape ahead.
One addiction won the arm wrestling match today.
I wonder who wins tomorrow.
I wonder who wins for life.
"Can you make smoke rings, grandpa?" the eight year old asked.
Her grandfather was busy enjoying his fag though.
"No. I am not smoking for your amusement child."
"Then why do you smoke?"
He couldn't answer her. Cause he didn't know how to explain addiction to an eight year old.
It was too late to give up. The cancer had spread.
"Maybe this is my last smoke.".
"Daddu, tobacco causes cancer. No beedi please," uttered the 8 year old.
Every time he saw the kid's face, something inside him died.
"I'll quit it soon beta," said he, lifting her in his arms.
"Did daddy smoke too? Is that why he's not with us anymore?" she asked, with sadness buried in her little eyes.
How on earth could this poor soul explain to a kid what 'honour killing' meant?
Tears rolled down his wrinkled face.
"Sorry daddu, I won't bother you again," apologized the kid, hugging him.
He just prayed that this cancer would someday be cured..
Monsoon has arrived. The weather makes Honnappaâ€™s bones ache. But he has got to work. Come sun or rain, he has got to work. Honnappa gets ready to leave for work with the plastic as a shield against rain and the Beedi to keep himself warm and lights another one. His home has a TV but no power. Much like his body; it has needs but hardly any vigour. Beedi has taken it all from him. But the Plastic doesnâ€™t keep him warm. Beedi does, which is why he wonâ€™t listen to the good doctor. He wonâ€™t quit..
Ramsevak was a retired old man. His door and fruit basket were always open for the neighborhood kids, who would drop in to watch cartoon shows, he was the only one with television in the village. He loved children, he had a heart of a child.
Couple of kids fainted after eating the fruits. He sent the other kids away saying that heâ€™ll take the kids to the doctor. He wore his blue plastic apron and started working. After an hour he sat down and lit a smoke. Now he had a heart and other organs of the children.
Chicha: I have heard that a genius named Einstein never kept his face straight while getting clicked. Now I'm no genius here nor do I have such quirky confidence to pull that off. All I have is this, a flaming stick for many years now. So whenever some one pulls out a camera I make sure I get clicked with this and with smoke coming out of it. I like it. It my signature style. What do you have to say?
But Chicha, this is a Cancer stick.
Chicha: I'm lucky! 43 years my friend and No Cancer. (Puff)
A fragile and vulnerable old man. He loved living up to this illusionary image of his. Respected and looked up to, Baba smirked at his perceived innocence by people. That day, like usual, he blew a puff of smoke in the air after the lunch break. He was excused during work hours because of his age. But that day, everybody was busy in search of the mill owner's daughter who went missing, last seen in the mill yesterday before dusk. He puffed his beedi and scratched his dick with a devilish grin. His lust was met, yet again. .
"I can't breathe," she said.
"Oh don't start that drama again! Of course you can breathe," he replied.
She looked out the window, at the breeze playing with the trees. She yearned to take a breath of that luscious fresh air.
She looked back at him puffing away... at the smoke swirling up. Her breath fell short, and her chest heaved, again. Surely that was cigarette smoke she was smelling through her oxygen mask?
Bed-ridden after her lung cancer treatment, she wondered if her subconscious was becoming accusatory. 'Passive smoking' was the culprit here, she told her brain.
Human beings are a species, but then there are amongst them too. He believed blaming his incapabilities on the ones he loved the most. He liked the social and solitude, too moody!
The withdrawal created a lot of tension. His second wife left him for a landlord and had many children. Since then he'd been living in denial. His condition allowed him to smoke, to remember faintly. It's never too late, they say, until it happens. He dug his own grave, now he only had to bury himself alive yet again..
"Did you know in the past thirty years your smoking has cost you over a crore? Can you imagine? You could have become a crorepati today. It also damages your memory among other ill-effects."
"Did you know suicide is a crime? Yet throwing away one's life gradually is allowed. Government tries. The industrial lobby wins. And who says all of us seek to cherish our memories?"
Sensing my awareness talk wasn't getting anywhere and he was stoned, I started to leave, when he spoke again.
"Are you a crorepati?"
"No," I said.
"I figured," he said, blowing smoke. .
"You talk about murder and justice. Whose murder are you referring to? Your town only has a rare missing persons report."
"Cover-up. Missing people murdered."
"Assuming they were indeed murdered, what is the purpose behind it?"
He had gotten away with his experiments for years, with meticulousness. This nosy reporter was beginning to sense irregularities. It was time to shut down his alter ego and resurface.
He didn't have to go hunting for a new body. The prey had come to him.
Nobody would believe his alter ego. He had been written off as a lunatic, a perfect cover..